"Lucas Black" - American Gothic
Gary Cole stars as a demonic rural sheriff in "American Gothic," the dark CBS drama that is one of fall's most talked-about series. But viewers might come away more impressed with 12-year-old Lucas Black, playing a sort of nightmare version of "Home Alone" or a kid's-eye version of "The Fugitive."
"He's not a trained child actor," noted Shaun Cassidy, who created and wrote "American Gothic." "He is that kid [in the show], except much happier."
Not that Lucas is a novice. His professional debut was a small part in "The War," starring Kevin Costner. A casting director "discovered him on a general casting search at local public schools, asking if any of the children wanted to be in a movie," Cassidy said. "He raised his hand, and in he went. And he was very good."
He travels to the "Gothic" set in North Carolina from Danville, Ala., where he lives with his parents and two siblings; his father, part Cherokee, works on a reservation facility.
"He has a wonderful family and is the most healthy, well-adjusted, charming, intelligent kid you'd ever want to be around," Cassidy said. "He has incredible energy, he's very smart and very sharp about continuity and things. He got the third script and said, 'No, no, no, I don't have the matches here - because remember, I went into the river and the matches got wet in episode two.' The continuity person is going to be chasing him.'
"The Alabama Boy Prefers His Own
Karen E. Kippen
-- Lucas Black would rather pore over a fishing catalog than thumb through a movie script.
It's a matter of priorities for the 14-year-old Lawrence County boy. Those casting agents trying to lure him back to Hollywood may have to wait.
After all, it's spring, and the bass are biting.
"Los Angeles is sho' nuff big, but it's a city and you can't do stuff in the city like you can here," Lucas said. Lucas, son of Larry and Jan Black, is a hot commodity right now. An eighth-grader at Speake School, his movie credits include "The War" with Kevin Costner, "Ghosts of Mississippi" with Whoopi Goldberg and Alec Baldwin and a Southern slice of life called "Sling Blade."
Last year he starred in the television series "American Gothic." Monday night, he was a guest star in an episode of "Chicago Hope" on CBS, playing a child genius who died with his father reading "Winnie the Pooh" to him.
His role in "Sling Blade" may be his biggest to date, as Monday's Oscar awards could attest. The critically acclaimed film was written and directed by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton.
Thornton, who also stars in the film, has been nominated for two Academy Awards, as best actor and for the adapted screenplay.
So Hollywood has the Blacks' number, but it's still the bass that are calling Lucas.
"He's still a 14-year-old boy," said Mrs. Black. "I think living here in Alabama has made a big difference. If he'd been born in Los Angeles or grew up out there it might have been different."
But his roots are in Speake, where there's just a volunteer fire station, a couple of churches, a school and a dab of simple homes.
Mrs. Black said she'd like her son to pursue his acting career, but not at the expense of his identity. "I'd like him to continue with it, but not to forget his roots, which I don't think he will. I think he'll stay level-headed," she said.
Lucas doesn't seem in danger of getting caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle. Yes, he's on a first-name basis with stars like George (Clooney,) Holly (Hunter) and Morgan (Freeman). In February, he wore his first tuxedo to the Screen Actors Guild awards show in Los Angeles.
Yes, last December he posed for a Calvin Klein jeans ad that was plastered across a billboard in Times Square in New York City and appeared in Vanity Fair magazine.
But his idea of a great time isn't to be noticed by autograph seekers or act like a celebrity. "Signing autographs is just like signing school papers," he said.
He'd rather pack up his fishing tackle and head to Smith Lake -- working toward his goal of becoming a Bassmaster fisherman.
"I'd like to do maybe one movie a year, that way I can stay in Alabama and keep fishing," he said.
Lucas has two older siblings. A brother, Lee, 19, is a student at Calhoun Community College. His sister, Lori, who will graduate this year from Athens State College and plans to be married in May, said it's exciting to see her brother get so much attention, but she doesn't worry that the experience will change him.
"You always hear about these child actors who get messed up with the wrong crowd," his sister said. "But I don't have any fear that Lucas will be like that. He's got a good head on his shoulders, has been brought up right in a good home and in the church. I think he'll continue to have the good values and good morals he does now."
Lucas' California-based agent, Robert Kim, understands and accepts that Lucas would rather be a professional fisherman than an actor. However, he would like to see him spend more time in Los Angeles trying out for movie roles.
"If this kid wants to be, he will be a big movie star," Kim said. "My biggest battle is with him. Yet I ultimately respect that he has a good family and he's not getting sucked up into the evils of Hollywood."
While the Black family doesn't plan to move to California, Lucas' mom and dad wish he would take more of an interest in his acting career.
"I wish he'd take it a little more seriously, but maybe that's why he does such a good job when he's acting," said Mrs. Black, who in addition to being Lucas' manager works at Electro Design in Flint. "He takes it seriously when he does it, but it's like a job to him and if he didn't get another one it wouldn't bother him."
His father, who works at Indian Mounds Museum in Oakville, said he tries to impress upon his son the long-term advantages of a successful acting career.
"For a boy from this area, I think it's just a great opportunity," Mr. Black said. "I try to tell him how important I think it would be if he'd pursue this as a career. I tell him he could probably fish or hunt anywhere he wants if he'd just continue doing what he does."
"I'm No Macaulay Culkin"
He's a star of the acclaimed new film Sling Blade, but 14-year-old Lucas Black has no big acting ambitions."No sir," he says. "I just wanna go fishing.""I'm no Macaulay Culkin or Ricky Schroder. I don't want to be a child star who burns out. If I audition for a part and I don't get it, I don't care, it's no big deal". Lucas, who lives with his family in Danville, Alabama, fell into the acting business. "Well, I didn't wanna be an actor, but my mumma heard about an audition on the radio. We went and auditioned for it, and I got the part." It was a role alongside Kevin Costner in the1994 film The War. Lucas then starred as Caleb in the Shaun Cassidy-produced series American Gothic, seen on Network Ten last year. Caleb had the power to communicate with the dead. "American Gothic was a pretty good experience. But it went for a bitlong - 7 1/2 months is along time to be away from home. I don't think I'll do another series." In Sling Blade, Lucas plays Frank Wheatley,who befriends Billy BobThornton's character,Kari Childers. It's been called one of the years saddest movies. "Yeah, it was a tear-jerker," Lucas says. "It's definitely the most emotional thing I've ever done, but it was a real fun movie to make." Lucas is now filming "Flash", a movie about a young boy's love for his horse. It is being directed by Australia's Simon Wincer (Phar Lap, Free Willy, Lonesome Dove). Lucas said he might do one film a year, but no more.
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